Dr. Seyed Hadi Mousavi: Is the existence of an absent Imam beneficial for the people? [Referring to the last Shiite Imam, who is in the Major Occultation]
Bagherpourkashani: Yes, in the Shiite narrations and hadiths, the way people benefit from Imam al-Asr (aj) is likened to the way people benefit from the sun behind clouds.
As mentioned earlier [in the book], the Lord holds people accountable for their actions as much as He has provided them [as blessings]. In an era when human beings are deprived of the blessing of meeting the Hujjat and Proof of God, the bounties of God increase and the divine assistance in achieving the truth increases. If people are rational enough, they can reach God’s Revelation and get rid of bewilderment by making the best use of His Revelation. In the most important matters of belief, they can listen to the teachings and guidance of revelation that has been received in a valid and reliable way and with the help of reason they can understand and accept such beliefs. Also, in Devine rulings for practicing religion, they can follow the path of jurisprudence and achieve the power of ijtihad and inference of religious rulings, and if this is impossible or difficult for them, they can perform taqlid [i.e. to follow] the jurists and mujtahids. Such taqlid is praised and accepted by the wise.
People who are rational, truthful, and are not responsible for the continued absence of Imam al-Asr (as), are blessed with special divine grace to succeed. They are people of patience and are diligent in performing their religious and human duties, waiting for the emergence of divine Hujjat and Proof.
In the great book of Haq al-Yaqin, after a narration on the analogy of the absent Imam to the sun behind clouds, Allameh Majlisi mentions some aspects in explaining the simile in this narration. He then goes on to narrate a part of the narrations concerning the divine rewards and blessings to those who are waiting and seeking the truth during Occultation:
Ibn Babawayh (Shaykh Saduq) has narrated through a reliable narration from Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari who asked the Messenger of God (PBUH and his Ahl Al-Bayt): Will the Shiites benefit from Hazrat Qaem (aj) [the last Shiite Imam who is in Occultation] during the time of his absence? The Prophet (PBUH and his Ahl Al-Bayt) said: “Yes, by the right of God, who sent me as a prophet, they will benefit from him and in his absence and they will be enlightened by the light of his guardianship, like people enjoying the sun even though clouds has covered it.”
In explaining this precious hadith, Allama Majlisi says:
“The simile of the sun behind clouds” refers to several things:
First: Authentic narrations indicate that through the blessing of the Infallibles, the light of existence, knowledge, guidance, and other graces and perfections reach the creatures; and with the blessings, intercession, and appeal to them, the truths and teachings are revealed to the Shiites; and the calamities and catastrophes are avoided and overcome; As the Almighty has said in Quran: But (O Prophet) as long as you are among them, God will not punish them.
Shiites and Sunnis have narrated from the Messenger of God (PBUH and his Ahl Al-Bayt): “My Ahl Al-Bayt are the haven for the people of the earth; just like the stars are the refuge of the dwellers of the heavens” and whoever his heart is lit by bright light of the faith knows that when the doors of hope are closed on someone and he does not know the way out or finds himself in doubt and difficult predicament, by appealing to their holy spirits, the doors of mercy and guidance will be opened to him to the extent of his seeking tawassul [seeking closeness to God through a mean].
Second: Although people enjoy its light, but at any moment they are waiting for the cloud covering the sun to go away and the sun to appear them [to fully enjoy its benefits]. In the same way, the sincere Shiites are constantly looking for the reappearance of the last Imam in the days of absence, and they will not be disappointed and disheartened, and they will reap great rewards [because of this action of waiting].
Third: He who does not accept the existence of that Imam, while the light shines and his signs of impact are obvious, he is like someone who does not accept the existence of the sun [that exists but] is covered by a cloud.
Fourth: Just as it is sometimes for the good of people to benefit from the sun behind a cloud, for various reasons – the enumeration of which will make this lengthy – perhaps the absence of Imam [while benefiting from the effects of his existence] will be more beneficial for the Shiites.
Fifth: Just as it is not possible to look directly at the sun causing blindness [or other side effects], perhaps seeing the sun-like charming face of Imam may cause blindness in the eyes of people; just like the time many people, like the Jews of Medina, believed in the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH and his Ahl Al-Bayt) before the selection of prophets by God. However, after announcement of his prophethood, they denied him because of their improper desires and aspirations. It is not far-fetched that most Shiites are like this during his time of absence.
Sixth: On a cloudy day, some people see the sun through the apertures and some fail to see; Likewise, in the time of Imam’s absence, some Shiites may have the honor of meeting Imam and some may not; As Imam Ja’far Sadegh (AS) said: “Hazrat Ghaem will have two Occultations: one is short and the other is long; “In the first period of Occultation, they do not know his place except the special Shiites, and in the second Occultation, they do not know his place except his close companions and special servants.”
In another narration, it is stated that 30 of his close servants and special companions will always be at his service; whoever of his companions dies, another one will replace him.
Seventh: Hazrat Ghaem and his pious forefathers are like the sun [whose benefit reaches all creatures] and no one, except for the inwardly blinds, is deprived of their blessings; the Almighty Allah has said about those inwardly blind people: “But he who has been blind [in seeing the truth] in this world, will be more blind and misguided in the Hereafter.”
Other aspects can be enumerated, but are beyond the scope of this book.”
An excerpt from “Stars of Guidance” by Dr. Bagherpoor Kashani